Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Capricious Gaia rejects Tomas Saraceno's loving gift Cloud City in Perth

Like so many well known artists these days, Tomas Saraceno is a fully paid up, card carrying eco-utopian. That's why he created Cloud City, which was meant to enlighten the good people of Perth.

Here the work is described in the pompous, turgid manner so beloved of elitist art promoters:

Challenging the boundaries of earthly living, Saraceno explores the possibilities of airborne living, predicting a social space in which moving over the world can be seamless and free, and where the environment might benefit from humans inhabiting the skies.

You'd think that Gaia might appreciate such noble sentiment, and so beautifully expressed. (And that's not an irrational and uber-arty thing to say, you know. After all, former Australian of the Year and respected scientist Tim Flannery says Gaia is real, self-aware and ready to punish us for our carbon sins.)

But sadly the Big Chick in the Sky has decided not to play ball. Soon after its debut at the Perth International Arts Festival, Cloud City was literally blown away by fierce winds.

So what are we to make of this? Well, maybe it shows that there's just no point in trying to appease nature. No matter how much we show our love and concern for the environment, the environment will never have any love or concern for us. It'll just keep on doing what it does, regardless of our actions.

Or there's another possibility: Maybe Gaia Herself is telling us She's a climate skeptic ...

Hmm. That's certainly intriguing. It's also provocative - even sacrilegious. And arts bureaucrats just love that stuff, don't they?

I might just use it as the theme for an artwork myself. Think I'll get a grant?

Animal Beatbox YouTube controversy shows Tropfest has had its day

I went to Tropfest a few years ago. It had a certain charm about it. But I thought then that the whole thing was a bit overrated. The night I was there the best entertainment was not found on the screen, but in the audience. So, I was never much of a fan.

Now, after the controversy over this year's Tropfest, I think even less of it. From the clips included in this article, claims that the winner, a stop motion animation called Animal Beatbox, is a rip-off do seem justified. But even if they're not, the advent of YouTube and other sites like it seem to have made the whole concept of such an award for new filmmakers pretty much irrelevant.

Defending the winner, Mr Polson said in a statement: "It doesn't surprise me there are other clips combining animals and music. It wouldn't surprise me, either, if there were similar clips for every one of the finalist films."

"Comparisons are easy to draw with the explosion of footage on the internet, accessible by fingertips worldwide.

"10 years ago this wouldn't be an issue, but with literally millions and millions of clips available now, it's not very difficult to find just about anything."

Exactly. So why even have such a competition? I mean, the whole point of awarding a prize is to say: experts agree, this is the best of the bunch. The official recognition is meant to establish that the work's creator is unarguably superior to other filmmakers, and thereby hopefully propel his career to greater heights. It's meant to be a leg-up for the truly talented and deserving.  

But Polson pretty much admits that the prize has no meaning. Brilliant, inventive stuff is made, and viewed, by countless people all over the world every day of the week. 

So what does the award say about the winner? Not much, except that he's good at getting awards. And is that something you should be, er, awarded for?

Tropfest is clearly past its use-by date. They should just can it.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

GLAAD mad over Saturday Night Live skit

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has the acronym GLAAD. But they hardly ever seem in a good mood, and are always outraged about something or other. Sometimes, they've got a point. But more often than not they are chucking tantrums over things that are trivial or completely benign.

Several weeks ago they were outraged over a Saturday Night Live ad parody that they believed was degrading to transgendered people. But apart from the fact that it was comedy, and therefore not meant to be taken seriously, the joke seemed to be on big business more than anything else.

Like so many groups on the PC left, GLAAD appear quite desperate to be offended.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why conservatives shouldn't abandon the arts

There's no doubt that there's a lot of seething hostility towards conservative artists, and this is why so many of them buckle under the pressure and create only safe, green, right-on artworks, or run away screaming and get real jobs.

But it's not just the PC brigade that's to blame for this sad situation. As this pithy column by Sam Guzman argues, many conservative institutions, organizations and publications have pretty much abandoned the arts. This is a real shame, because art can be an extremely powerful and persuasive way of making an ideological point.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The comedy of Dennis Miller: hilarious, true and conservative

Dennis Miller is interesting. When he started doing comedy, he was more or less a liberal. But now he's well and truly on the other side of the fence. The thing that changed him: 9/11.

The fact that he can be as successful as he is says much about the USA. Comics are overwhelmingly politically correct in that country, just like they are here in Australia. However there is a much stronger tradition of free speech there. Also, the entertainment industry is more meritocratic. That's why it boasts Miller and quite a few other well known performing artists who openly identify as conservative.

Have a look at that monologue. Can you imagine any well known Aussie stand-up doing something remotely similar? Even a couple of lines with a similar edge would swiftly be deemed "Islamophobic" by the commissars of Artsville and he'd carry the false label "racist" from then on. 

This accusation might not end his career. But it would certainly ensure that he was much further down the list when gigs and grants are handed out. No wonder you don't see such material performed here. No wonder, too, that when the subject of Islam is dealt with by comedians, the mockery is overwhelmingly aimed at our alleged intolerance of it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Comedian Dave Hughes in Perth and "controversy" in comedy

Reviews of comedy shows often start out with an introduction along the lines of "no one is safe", "everybody cops a serve" and "taking aim at both sides of politics ...". In this, they are reminiscent of the press releases for the shows themselves. Funny, that.

This review of affable Aussie stand-up Dave Hughes's final show in Perth is no different. The intro reads:

No one was exempt from Aussie comedian Dave Hughes digs during his final controversial show in Perth last night.

Controversial? I didn't even know that it was on, let alone that it was controversial. I think that particular characterization is a reference to the reaction Hughes got on Twitter after asking for some local talking points (a reaction described in the article itself). Apparently a few tweeps said "stay clear of the bushfire gags, mate!" but he referred to them anyway, resulting in a few semi-appalled gasps in the audience.

Come to think of it, when was the last true controversy over a comedian's act in WA - that is, something akin to a censorship stoush, or even some well publicized condemnation by the great and the good? I may be wrong but about the only thing I can think of would be Rodney Rude being arrested for obscenity way back in the eighties. And the controversy then was more over the arrest itself than the material that, er, provoked it (which no one seemed all that bothered by, except one or two plods).

This word "controversial" - not unlike the term "politically incorrect" - seems to have lost a lot of its true meaning lately. Both were used to describe Ricky Gervais's infamous Golden Globes routine. I suppose it was mildly controversial, in the sense that some of the stars he mocked were a tad miffed by his gags, and the shindig's organizers thought the lines were in very poor taste. But it certainly wasn't truly politically incorrect. The closest he came to that was being accused of ageism by one of the Sex and the City "girls". I think "spot on" is a much better description.

But back to Hughesy's show: I didn't see it so I can only go on what is described in the review. And that says that he "dared to tackle all of the country’s recent natural disasters":

First were Perth residents wanting Cyclone Bianca to show up, purely for a shot at being on Channel 7’s Sunrise, and then the hassle of having to tape Cyclone Yasi because it was scheduled during the night, only to wake and find it had “disappointed”.

Not even successful enough to blow away “leaf-sized” Grant Denyer, Hughesy joked.

I can see how a few in the audience might have thought this was a bit tasteless, but it's hardly controversial. And he's not even dealing with the climatic events themselves as much as Aussies' love of their TV news shows.

I can think of an angle that would be truly controversial. And that's to point out how stupid climate change catastrophists now look for saying that Australia would be in perpetual drought; to mock Bob Brown for opportunistically suggesting that the Australian coal industry pay for the damage caused by the Brisbane floods.

There's certainly a lot of funny material in there already. You really don't even have to write the gags, since the po-faced pronouncements of sanctimonious frauds like Bob Brown and Tim Flannery are already rolled comedy gold.

But you'll almost never see this done by a well known Aussie comic. There's a rule that they all obey, often unconsciously. That is that you don't just don't mock the left, particularly the green left.

It's a pity, because while audiences might be shocked at first to see the likes of Saint Bob Brown getting a urinectomy from their favourite stand-up comic, they certainly would appreciate it - even if just for the novelty.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Politically correct racism in "The Big Brown Comedy Hour"

If a bunch of white comedians all got together and performed a show called "The Giant Caucasian Yuck-Fest", that would be undeniably (and probably criminally) racist. Without a doubt pretty much anyone across the political spectrum who considers himself to be reasonably civilized and compassionate would condemn it outright.

So why is there no outrage over "The Big Brown Comedy Hour", an event in which the performers are chosen primarily because of their skin colour. Surely that's racist, too, isn't it?

Clearly it is. But it's politically correct racism. It's apartheid with the left's stamp of approval. So that makes it okay. Although everybody knows deep down that it comes from the same ugly separatist mindset that produces the KKK, we're all supposed to get with the program and say isn't it wonderful and empowering, and a great event that will ultimately ... help stamp out racism!

Of course the organizers have good intentions. As the CNN piece says, the comics performing on the bill suffered discrimination; they were marginalized. But then why perform it in a context that perpetuates the marginalization. How could that possibly be empowering?

The idea that it is empowering is not just a lie, it's a joke. Talk about the elephant in the comedy room.

I wonder if any of the performers dared do a routine on that particular pachyderm? Somehow, I doubt it.

The thing I find so depressing about entertainments like this is that comedy is supposed to be rebellious and anarchic; to poke fun at authority. But here, it's conforming to a very strict and censorious ideology.

And speaking of censorious ideologies: I wonder how many of the comics on the night did any jokes mocking climate change catastrophism? Somehow, I doubt that, too.

Unless things are radically different in America the vast majority of comedians there aren't lampooning the (already) hilarious claims by the like of Al Gore and Tim Flannery. They're dutifully deriding the skeptics instead.

How funny is that? (Er, not very.)

It's like every Australian "comedy" show you'll ever see these days is "The Bob Brown Comedy Hour". And as we all know, the guy's a complete cut-up.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Kenneth Cole Egypt tweet furore reveals double standard

Famed American clothing designer Kenneth Cole has joined a conga-line of high profile people who've come a cropper on Twitter. His crime was to tweet jokingly about how rioters in Egypt were rushing to get to his latest offerings. The twittersphere went ballistic and he was forced to make a grovelling apology.

It's ironic, because businesspeople and celebs are forever exploiting political issues to promote themselves and flog product. Kenneth Cole himself has done this in the past and it's worked very well for him. He's done the fur-free thing, for instance. (You'll see him on this list.) He's also done his share of campaigning for AIDS awareness. These were clearly good business decisions as much as anything else.

The difference here of course is tone. On Twitter he was being flippant and humorous, and people didn't like that.

So, celebs should remember that violence and human suffering can still be exploited for business purposes. They just have to do it in an earnest, po-faced way. Then they'll get away with it.